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Day 8 of Our 31 Day Series of How Medicine Got It Wrong

The Convenient Oversight of Johnson & Johnson on How It's Baby Powder Causes Cancer

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was first introduced in 1894 and was marketed as a product that could soothe and prevent diaper rash in infants. The powder is made from talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth. Talc is composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen and is known for its ability to absorb moisture and reduce friction.


In recent years, there have been several lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging that the talc used in the baby powder contained asbestos, a mineral that is known to cause cancer. Asbestos is often found in deposits of talc, and it is a known carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma.


In 2018, a jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women who claimed that Johnson & Johnson's talc-based products, including its baby powder, caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson denied that its products contained asbestos or that they caused cancer and vowed to appeal the verdict.


In addition to the ovarian cancer lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is also facing lawsuits alleging that its talc-based products caused mesothelioma and other lung diseases. In 2020, the company announced that it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, citing changes in consumer habits and misinformation about the safety of the product.


It's important to note that not all talc contains asbestos, and Johnson & Johnson maintains that its baby powder is safe and free of asbestos. However, the company has faced criticism for not doing enough to test its products for asbestos and for not warning consumers about the potential risks.


In summary, the controversy surrounding Johnson & Johnson baby powder centers on allegations that the talc used in the product contains asbestos. This known carcinogen can cause lung and ovarian cancer. While Johnson & Johnson maintains that its baby powder is safe and free of asbestos, the company has faced numerous lawsuits. It has stopped selling talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada. It's essential for consumers to be aware of the potential risks associated with talc-based products and to make informed decisions about their use.


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References

  1. “Talcum Powder and Cancer,” The American Cancer Society

  2. "Johnson & Johnson to Stop Selling Talc-Based Baby Powder in U.S. and Canada" by Tiffany Hsu, published by The New York Times on May 19, 2020

  3. "Johnson & Johnson recalls baby powder after asbestos found" by Katherine Doherty and Riley Griffin, published by Bloomberg on October 18, 2019

  4. "Johnson & Johnson's baby powder recall, prompted by FDA test, latest hit to company's image" by Bertha Coombs, published by CNBC on October 18, 2019

  5. "J&J Must Pay $4.7 Billion in Talcum Powder Suit" by Tiffany Hsu, published by The New York Times on July 12, 2018

  6. "Asbestos, Talcum Powder & Mesothelioma Cancer" by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, accessed on March 10, 2023

  7. Image: Johnson & Johnson to Pay Over $100 million in Talcum Powder Settlement